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Joshua Tree

In search of the unruly yucca Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


In search of the Joshua Tree

The wild and enigmatic Joshua Tree lives in the high deserts of California, Nevada and the extreme southwestern corner of Utah. Joshua Tree National Park sits astride two deserts, the low Colorado Desert and the high Mojave Desert - two similar, but distinct habitats. Creosote bushes and cacti dominate the low desert where warmer and drier conditions prevail. Yuccas prefer the cooler and wetter high desert.

Joshua Tree


On a sunny day in February 2012, I set out with two intrepid explorers - Janice and Lorelei - in search of the famous Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua Tree. Leaving Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley behind we ventured into the mountains to the north.

Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


What at first seems like an inhospitable landscape of rock and sand is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. The low desert is the habitat of the Jumping Cholla Cactus. Also known as the “Teddy-Bear� it is anything but cuddly. Sharp as a hypodermic needle and as stiff as an iron spike, the spines of the Teddy-Bear can punch through shoes with ease. Spike-like ocotillo plants are found intermingled with the Cholla and emerging from between boulders across the landscape.

Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


Like forests in parks everywhere, this hardy stand of Cholla has its trails leading visitors safely through and out the other side.

Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


No need for “Stay on the Trail” signs here.

Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


The antelope ground squirrel is at home darting among the cacti which they avoid with well honed skill. They seem to be the guardians of the cactus groves, dashing out to challenge hikers than running off on some other business.

Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Lizards like this little whiptail are a common sight if you don’t move too fast. They find shelter from the heat, cold and predators in rock crevasses and among spiny plants.

Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Entering the Mojave high desert we came to the land of the yuccas and fantastic rock formations. Our goal was to find the Joshua Trees, not knowing what the species looked like we were at a bit of a disadvantage. We saw lots of strange yucca plants but no “trees.� The park guide brochure came to our, rather embarrassed, rescue when Lorelei did something we had not considered, she read the information provided by the park naturalists. With our eyes newly opened, we saw Joshua Trees everywhere.

Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Sometimes called the unruly tree, specimens can look like something from the mind of Dr. Seuss. The name of this tall, branching yucca, comes from a fanciful biblical reference to Joshua who reportedly held his arms in the air while his people fought at Jericho.

Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


The eerie landscape that the Joshua trees call home is at once barren and full of life. The plants and animals that inhabit this place are well suited to the cycles of wet, dry, cold and heat finding shelter and sustenance where less hardy creatures would not.

Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


From the lookout on the western rim of the plateau, the Coachella Valley extends south to north along the San Andreas fault, seen here as the dark line running along the valley floor.

Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


Joshua Tree National Park is a land of curiosity and splendor, sitting at the conjunction of two great deserts nestled in the California interior. Our quest to find the fabled yuccas was not in vain and we highly recommend this landscape to anyone visiting Palm Springs and needing a change of pace.

Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.


Joshua Tree


Joshua Tree - John Nicklin 2012 Images copyright Janice Nicklin and John Nicklin. Text copyright John Nicklin.

Joshua Tree  

In search of the unruly yucca